There I was, at the annual Christmas party I had been desperately waiting for all year. With dozens of people from all around the area, I was astonished by how many of them I had never met and would probably never meet again. With everyone in such a good mood, it was impossible to not have a great time. Whether people were playing drinking games, busting a move on the dance floor, or lounging on the couch talking about god knows what, it seemed there was something to do for everyone.
Regardless, a feeling that seems to never fully go away began to surface. A feeling I had grown so accustomed to that it took little thought to know what to do next. As everyone continued to have the time of their lives, I slowly withdrew from the scene and stepped outside.
As I stood there with the cold winter breeze lightly pressing against my skin, a feeling of peace fell over me. I knew that I would just need ten minutes of this bliss before the night would be mine once again. Yet this time I was not alone. As I stood in the cold winter night, I noticed a man around my age sitting with his legs hanging from the edge of the porch. As he looked down at his feet, which he slowly swayed back and forth, I quickly recognized our similar situations.
I then proceeded to sit next to him. At first we both said nothing. Listening to the distant noises of the party just one door away and looking over the glass-like lake, the need for words was not yet present.
After a few minutes I began our conversation with a simple hello. As we talked there was no secret to why we had ventured off to such an isolated spot. We spoke of depression. We spoke of anxiety. And most of all, we spoke of suicide. There was no judgement and there was no stigma. We simply spoke our thoughts, and nothing was there to stop us.
The loveliest part of this conversation was that both of us were isolated, as we desired to be, but also not alone. Normally one is not lucky enough to have both sides of the coin. To be both isolated from the world’s judgement and expectations, as well as doing so with someone right beside you.
Eventually some of the partiers ventured outside to find their lost friends. As they found us sitting on the porch I watched a look of confusion fall over the friend’s face. If he was not questioning why his friend was sitting out in the cold, then he was certainly questioning why he was doing so with a stranger. I then watched as my new found friend bounded up from the porch with light in his eyes. I don’t believe it was entirely fake, yet I do believe his joy was a bit exaggerated to silence the questioning.
As they bounded away, back into the party, I was alone once again. Yet this time I felt better. I felt fuller. This surprised me; normally it took a bit longer to get back to the level of happiness I was now at. So, with my tank restored I got up and walked myself back into the warm, exotic Christmas party I had so quickly left.
It was not until the next morning that I began to hash out the night. Who was that I sat next to? And did we really tell each other about our deepest, darkest secrets? The answer is that I will never know who that person is, and I quite frankly don’t need to. I don’t need to know when he was born, or where he grew up, or even his name. He is someone I bonded with. Someone I formed a true connection with, and it only took five minutes.
We bonded because we were vulnerable. Sitting outside in the middle of the night, talking about the things that most of society would push back, we let ourselves be truly seen. We spoke openly and allowed our vulnerable selves be present. Now I am not saying that is the only way to form a connection, but it is definitely a healthy one. A healthy one that is rarely done, especially with a stranger. Especially with someone you know so little about. But I can say I knew one thing about that person before I sat down next to him. I saw that empty look, that empty feeling that I have lived with for years. And knowing we had that much in common was enough for me to show my vulnerable self and then hope he would do the same.
Connection, real connection, is a huge component of what the human mind requires. We need someone to rationalize our thoughts with. We need someone to celebrate with. And most importantly, we need someone to be alone with. To find human connection we simply need to be courageous. To make the first step with our hearts out and our hands held high. To show your vulnerable self even when there is no guarantee it will work out. Maybe not at your next Christmas party, but somewhere, you should connect with someone. You should form a bond because let me tell you, there is no better feeling than when you show your demons and all you get in return is a genuine smile.
Image credit: psychotherapynetworker.org